So, let me get this straight. If you whine at God day and night he will give into your tenacious nagging? I have heard this as an explanation of the parable of the unjust judge and persistent widow. Oh, to be sure the words were different, but really, it amounts to the same thing. And if God relents because of my unrelenting complaining, is he a just God or merely a weak god? I would like to suggest that a God who must answer to my whining is not powerful at all. Maybe I should put this a different way. I have seen many a child in the position of power with their parents because the people who were given a position of authority abnegated that authority under the constant barrage of defiant whining. And it does not take children long to exploit that one. And there is something out of whack here. As you may have guessed, I am going to suggest a different interpretation of this parable.
Luke 18:1-8 is a continuation of the discussion in 17:22-37, and this passage is about the coming of the Son of Man in judgment; a coming that will fenagle things back to the way they should be. Ah, but it is also about a longing for justice while the Son of Man seems nowhere to be found. Context is king boys and girls. In this context Jesus tells his disciples that they are obligated to pray at all times and not to do evil. Many a translation has “not to lose heart,” or “not to grow weary.” Basically, you could translate it, “Keep praying and don’t give up and give in to the evil.” Followers of Jesus ought not to subscribe to the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Don’t give up! Justice is coming!
And then we are introduced to a certain judge in a certain city who did not fear God. The judge is a person in a position of trust. He ought to be the champion of the unchampioned. In 2 Chronicles 19:4-6 Jehoshaphat appointed judges and told them to let the fear of Yahweh to be upon them. In Deuteronomy 27:19 God curses the one who distorts justice due to an alien, orphan, or a widow. God doesn’t like it when the vulnerable are mistreated and taken advantage of. But this guy doesn’t fear God. So, what does he care about God’s word or curses? And on top of that, he does not respect people. Well, that doesn’t bode well. A widow had been coming and kept coming, demanding protective or restorative justice. We don’t know the details of the case, and we don’t need to know. She is the vulnerable one; the one who is easy to overlook because she has no power. Especially by a judge who doesn’t care about God or people.
So, at first this judge ignores the pleas. We don’t know how long this went on, but the implication is many days. Maybe longer. But because of the widow’s persistence, the judge relents and gives her the justice she seeks. And his reason for this about face? It was the constant troubling or bothering he felt by her ever-present demanding. It was the fear of a black eye. The word that is translated “wear me out” in the NASB means “to strike about the eye.” Some have taken this as Biblical humor: That little ol’ widow woman is a like Granny Clampet and she is likely to assault me. The word can refer to shame. He may have been shamed into action by her constant presence. He may not respect people, but he does care about his reputation. The main thought is the widow’s trust that justice will come if she just keeps asking for it.
Now, if this unrighteous judge gives in to this tenacious trust, how much more will the righteous God bring justice about for his chosen ones who pray/long day and night? The latter part of verse 7 is difficult. God is described several times as being longsuffering in the Old Testament. But how does this longsuffering fit the context of quick justice in verse 8? Despite how it feels to us, God’s justice will come and it will come swiftly. The quickness may not refer to quickly as in soon after the longing is felt. It may refer to a coming that is not dragged out in its execution. God is longsuffering. And praise God he is. He also longs for something; hearts turning toward him in acknowledgment and repentance. Justice will come. The question is; will the Son of Man find you faithfully trusting in that justice?
We long for things to be set right. We ache for the cessation of oppression. We long and we cry out, “How long?” In the midst of that longing, keep turning your questions and fears over to God. What Jesus is promising here is that a tenacious trust in God will be rewarded. He is not promising that the whinier you get the more likely God will answer your every whim. Things will be set right. The Son of Man comes and fenagles and things shift. But there will be final finagling and every last thing will be set right. Put your trust in that! Keep praying and trusting my friends. Grace and peace. Walter